GOP candidate for California governor Neel Kashkari spent a week living on the streets of Fresno while job hunting.
Kashkari, 41, attempted to debunk the claim that the Golden State is in the midst of an economic recovery, which entrenched, sloganeering Democrats including incumbent Governor Jerry Brown have called the California Comeback.
Along with high taxes and all kinds of bureaucratic red tape, California reportedly has the highest poverty rate in the U.S.
A libertarian-leaning Republican, Kashkari, the son of immigrants from India, faces an uphill if not hopeless battle to win the gubernatorial election in November in the deep blue state, especially with the much better known Brown sitting on a campaign war chest of about $22 million.
Kashkari was a former U.S. Treasury Department official and investment banker. A millionaire, Kashkari obviously has plenty of cash in real life, but he wasn’t carrying much of it during his week-long reconnaissance.
He defeated Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly in the June primary to earn the right to face Brown in the fall general election.
As chronicled in the video embedded below, Kashkari took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno in his journey of first-hand economic research. Describing what happened in The Wall Street Journal, he explained that “With only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush, I planned to find a job and earn enough money to get by… Over the next seven days, I walked mile after mile in 100-degree heat searching for a job… I went to dozens of businesses in search of work but wasn’t able to get any. In seven days, I didn’t see a single ‘Help Wanted’ sign, but I did see plenty of signs that fast-food outlets now accept food stamps.”
The GOP candidate was able to obtain meals at a generous homeless shelter, but had to sleep on the street at night because the shelter lacked enough beds. “The people I met during my week in Fresno are proud. They don’t want to be homeless. They don’t want to be poor. They don’t want to depend on a shelter or the state. Most want jobs but simply cannot find one.”
After he got home, Kashkari made a $500 donation to the shelter that provided him with food, presumably the first of many contributions to that facility.
Concluded Kashkari: “Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job… California’s record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state, failing schools that don’t prepare students for the skilled work force and misguided water policies that prevent us from saving surplus water in wet years to prepare for our inevitable droughts. We have the power to tackle poverty if we implement smart, pro-growth economic policies, as many other states have done.”
Kashkari’s trek was denounced as a publicity stunt for his doomed campaign by the opposition. Even so, left-wing/progressive writer Ted Rall opined that “I think it’s admirable that any politician, especially a Republican — the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans don’t even pretend to care about poor people — is drawing attention to the misery experienced by millions of Californians suffering through grinding poverty with no foreseeable end in sight. Sure, Kashkari is a multimillionaire who got to go home when it was over. But when’s the last time you slept outside to see what it was like? I don’t even like camping. So, good on Kashkari.”
According to the Daily Press, “We suspect there was even more to Kashkari’s motivation than simply name recognition. Perhaps he was trying to shake up the state’s media in general, which has largely bought into Brown’s assertion that the state’s economy is in the middle of a robust recovery… One thing is certain about this whole episode, which is that Kashkari got more media attention than a week’s worth of paid television commercials in all of California’s major media markets. And all for 40 bucks and some free meals.”
Do you think that temporarily homeless candidate for governor Neel Kashkari was just engaged in political theater or is he making a substantive point about the actual condition of the California economy?